Launching a new app, product, or service is a huge milestone for any company. There’s always a lot of excitement (nervousness, too!) around product launches. To many, launch day seems like a roll of the dice: it goes well or it doesn’t. Thankfully, there are some simple things you can do to make your launch successful. The first one is to rethink your launch strategy.

Launch repeatedly. 🚀

Many companies take a waterfall approach to releasing new products and services. They begin with an idea, do some market validation, and begin straight away with UI/UX and engineering work. They spend months writing code, showing the app to friends, and then organizing a “launch day.” Announcements go out to social networks and enormous hype builds up for the big day. For some, launch day is an incredible success. For others, a miserable failure. I think there’s a better way, through Product-Led Growth: Product-Led Growth Lifecycle

All effort is focused on the product and the go-to-market (GTM) strategy, in parallel. You can execute a GTM strategy by:

  1. Building an audience through content marketing. The content should be geared towards solving the problem your customers have. It should point to your app as a solution.
  2. Selling info products related to your app (more on that in a bit).
  3. Validating your product concept with real customers for usability and value.

Rather than organizing a single, official launch day, you steadily conduct a series of mini-launches, while building your product in public. You don’t have to share intimate details about your intellectual property, financials, or ideas with anyone while doing this. What you’re doing is building a community of users around the problem you are solving, and consulting with them as you build your product. This will benefit you in a few ways:

  1. By incorporating user feedback from the beginning, you release a product that adequately addresses the problem you set out to solve, rather than building on assumptions.
  2. You’re growing your audience (and membership) as you build. You will have smooth and steady growth, from the beginning. More revenue, more runway, and less risk.
  3. You’re further establishing your company as a leader and attracting more partnerships and customers.

By leveraging the product to grow your audience you will end up with a better product. The customers tell you what they want and you build it. Focusing all skill centers of the company on developing these two systems will ensure continued success as your product grows. By growing this way, you will avoid the massive spike in users that don’t represent your ideal customer, as you get with a massive public launch day.

By the way, I write one of these every few weeks or so. Sign-up with your email here to receive the latest, as soon as it’s posted!

Create info products. 📚

Pretty much all software products are designed to solve some sort of business problem. You’re likely experienced with understanding and working around the challenges your customers face. You should harness this expertise, not only with the software you’re building but by producing and selling information products as well. Write a whitepaper or ebook on strategies for dealing with these challenges. Sell this as a separate product to your user community/email list, and include a free trial of your software with the sale. This way you are introducing your software to more people while focusing on the main thing: solving your customer’s problems.

Implement a revenue model. 💵

Too many startups avoid this until “launch day” (or sometimes, even after!! 🤦). Include the revenue model in early versions of your product so you can validate it. Just like the actual software features, pages, and user experience should be validated for usability and value, you must validate your process for landing paying customers. Your users should feel relieved to be entering their credit card numbers. You want users saying “Take my money!!!” rather than “omg I can’t believe they want me to pay for this.”

Make sure you charge for what users value instead of features that are only incidental to their usage of your product. You wouldn’t start a coffee shop and charge users for cups in addition to the price of their coffee. Of course, we all know we’re paying for the cup too, we’re just not asked to pay for it. Keep this in mind as you’re deciding the pricing tiers of your product and be sure to charge only for features that represent core value for your customers.

Consider offering money-back guarantees rather than free trials. This is a great way to filter out non-ideal customers. The people who will buy your software find value in the solution you’re providing. These customers will provide the most valuable product development insights since they represent your ideal customer profile (ICP).

Get your (technical) ducks in a row. 🛠️

Make sure you build a solid foundation for iterating your product during this growth stage. As you begin your mini-releases, you want to make sure you have analytics in place to capture data about user interactions with your product. You can use these data points to reach out to users and ask follow-up questions. Notice a bunch of people leaving a page right after arriving? Maybe you should go ask them why that is.

Add a floating button somewhere out of the way in your app that gives users a way to provide feedback. Label the button something like “Request a Feature” or “Make a Wish.” A simple pop-up with a text box and a submit button is all you need here. The point is to give your users a way to tell you what they want easily. Funnel these requests into your backlog! Then go through them as a team and link requests for features that are the same, prioritize them in terms of demand and value-add, and validate the new features before spending a ton of time building them. Sit with users and ask why they need it. Is there a deeper reason for the problem they have that you can solve for them even better?

Lastly, spend a little bit of time on non-functional stuff. Create some basic CI/CD pipelines that improve your teams' ability to ship new code early and often. Do the same thing for your go-to-market strategy and community-building activities. Create a standard process for generating new content, sharing it, analyzing its performance, A/B testing of info products, etc. Do your best to make decisions based on data and conversations with real customers, and you’ll have a much more exciting “launch day.”

If you need help with product development and software delivery, reach out.